PROCLAIMING GOD’S TRUTH … WITH LOVE (Part 1 of 2)

The Bible—God’s Holy Word—reveals God’s Truth to mankind. While written by men, each word is inspired by God, according to its own claim, with more than 300 Old Testament prophesies already fulfilled. Its chief prophecy was the birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. To thwart God’s plan to redeem mankind, Satan deceives and distorts God’s Word. Faithful Christians must be aware of that and must defend the Bible’s truth claims against false teaching.

2 Cor. 10:5 (NLT): “We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.”

Titus 2:1 (NIV): You must teach what is in accord with sound doctrine.”

James 3:1 (NET): “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, because you know that we will be judged more strictly.

John 17:17 (NASB2020): “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”

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 FIGHTING AGAINST FALSE TEACHING

THE BODY OF CHRIST is under assault. That assault naturally comes from outside the church as Satan tries to thwart God’s plan to redeem fallen mankind.

More dangerous, however, is the daily assault from within the church. That danger is “false doctrine,” being preached from the pulpits in many churches.

That false doctrine comes under the heading of “Jesus Is Love,” which is true, but the false message being preached is that “Love” fully describes Jesus, when He described Himself as “Holy.”

The difference? “Holy” includes “Love,” but it also includes “Just.”

HOLINESS VERSUS SIN

A HOLY GOD cannot abide sin, and, yes, sin is real, and the Bible — God’s inspired and true Word — clearly spells out sin  as “actions, words, and thoughts that violate God’s commandments.”

Let’s examine some of the sins God names: drunkenness, slander, envy/jealousy, bearing false witness (lying), disrespect toward one’s parents, disobedience to governing authorities, and sexual sin.

Sexual sin, the Bible notes, covers sexual acts involving children; family members or close relatives; the neighbor, co-worker, or total strangers; and animals.

Then, there’s one more category, one that God highlights throughout the sacred text: physical relations with someone of the same sex.

Instead, God’s Word proclaims that proper sexual unions are confined to marriage partners, where one partner is male and one is female.

SAME-SEX ATTRACTION

SAME-SEX ATTRACTION has been siphoned out of the list of biblically named vices and presented, even within some churches, as an alternate “life choice,” considered to be as valid a  choice as opposite-sex monogamy.

In fact, many churches are teaching that the body of Christ must accept and validate behavior that the Bible clearly labels “deviant” and “unnatural.”

Churches that do so are peddling the false doctrine that God will condone homosexual behavior because “God is love,” and He wants His creatures to be happy and connected physically and emotionally with “the one they love.”

Some churches even teach that God’s Word is not to be taken “literally” and, thus, can be revised by the reader, according to his reason and experiences.

However, the Bible warns teachers not to deviate from “sound doctrine” nor to teach a false message, one contrary to God’s clear teaching (Titus 2:1 NIV). In his letter to the church in Galatia, the apostle Paul said those teaching a false message should be “accursed” (Galatians 1:9 NKJV).

This is God’s teaching about sexual sin, through Paul’s writing:

1 Thessalonians 4:3,8 (NLT): “God’s will is for you to be holy, so stay away from all sexual sin. … Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.”

LEADING CONGREGATIONS ASTRAY

HOW DO OTHERWISE well-meaning people go astray? How? Little by little, one step at a time … until the apostasy goes unnoticed. 

The apostasy starts in the pulpit and radiates out to encompass the congregation and, from there, spreads out to the community. 

The writer Brandon Medina, in his TheologyThink Tank article “Is the Bible the Literal Word of God?” poses the question rhetorically of whether anyone rationally believes the Bible is the “literal word of God.” He then says:

“This is a common refrain Bible-believing Christians hear, usually from the unsaved but increasingly from those even inside the church community: pastors, seminary teachers, and laypeople alike.”

Don’t miss that point: “Increasingly from those even inside the church community: pastors, seminary teachers, and laypeople alike.” 

Those “laypeople,” to be influential, are the elders, deacons, teachers, home group leaders, and other respected members of the local assembly. They may be the business leaders or other accomplished persons, at least by worldly standards. 

POSTSCRIPT

FOR THOSE WHO WANT to sound the alarm against false teaching, the Bible clearly says we must do so with love and gentleness, and for those of us who are not Jesus, that balance often is difficult (or nearly impossible) to do well. He did it perfectly; we’re called to imitate Him.

That makes it doubly important that we “pray in” so we’ll be connected to the Holy Spirit and then we can approach our brothers and sisters in an act of love.

May the Lord’s blessing rest upon those who obey His command to avoid sexual sin and may it rest upon those who, in love, speak the truth to those violating God’s order.

(Part 2 will be published after Christmas)

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PRAYER

HOLY AND MIGHTY GOD, please forgive us who claim to belong to the body of Christ for our sin. While some in our midst teach, or practice, false doctrine, others of us fail to call them to account. 

MANY, EVEN IN the church, sin by following, promoting, or teaching false doctrine, especially in the area of sexual sin; while others of us sin in our pride, arrogance, and judgmental attitude when pointing it out, as though we, ourselves, are without sin.

BECAUSE OF our sin, our message of repentance often goes unheard. This allows those who practice sexual sin, whether same-sex or opposite-sex behavior, to continue in their deviant and disobedient actions because our testimony is tainted. Lord, only You can save Your children. Only You can calm the storm and right the ship.

WE PRAY, LORD, that You will charge us who follow correct teaching to do so with humility and compassion and for those who promote and participate in a false doctrine to find a loving home within the body of Christ for them to return and to do so soon. 

LORD, WE LIFT this pray in the loving, holy, and just name of Jesus Christ. AMEN

GUARDING OUR TONGUES

What we say can get us into so much trouble. Not only the words we utter, but also our tone of voice and who we share with can hurt others and ourselves. The Bible tells us the tongue “is a fire, a world of iniquity … and it is set on fire by hell.” (James 3:6 NKJV) Those are strong words, yet 2,000 years later, so many of us wish we had been more careful more often with more people. Mankind cannot tame the tongue, the Bible says, so we need the power of God’s Holy Spirit to keep us from this sin.

 

  • Psalm 141:3 (NKJV): “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”
  • James 3:8 (NASB): “But no one can tame the tongue;  it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.”

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MY LIFELONG STRUGGLE

WATCHING MY TONGUE is a life-long struggle.57.Tongue-fire

Early in my life, I said whatever I wanted to, as bluntly as I knew how, disregarding any consequences.

Yes, I paid a price for loose lips, although, at the time, I don’t recall ever seeing a direct correlation between my actions and the resulting consequences. I was not a Christian then, so I did not have the Bible’s wisdom to guide and correct me.

To the extent that I did recognize my own shortcomings, I must have simply shrugged my shoulders and toughened my skin.

That has changed.

God has changed me.

ENTER THE HOLY SPIRIT

IN NOVEMBER 2010, — 10 years ago this month — led by the Holy Spirit, I surrendered my life to Almighty God.

72. Man_Tape_TongueHe placed it upon my heart to watch my tongue, that my  very words belonged to Him, and I was to begin seeing myself as “salt and light” to a sin-filled world.

Another way of stating it is that I was blessed by God to be a blessing to others.

There’s no way I could accomplish that role without being more careful about what I said and how I said it.

Jesus even reminded us of that in Matthew 12:36 (ESV):

“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.”

Although the Lord didn’t add these words, He could have: “That means you … and it means You … and it means YOU!”

ENTER A CHRISTIAN WOMAN

TWO YEARS AFTER coming to faith, the Lord brought a Christian woman into my life, and we married 2 1/2 years later.

She is my true *ezer kenegdo,* chastising me when I make judgmental comments or hurtful criticisms or just flat-out plain and stupid foolishness. Unfortunately, she’s been kept busy in that role. I must be a slow learner.FEMALE_SILHOUETTE

The difference in me now is that I care.

I want to do better.

I am grieved whenever I grieve the Holy Spirit;

Ephesians 4:30 (NIV): “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

I am grieved whenever I grieve my wife.

1 Peter 3:7 (NASB): “You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.”

God is serious about this tongue business.

  ENTER GOD’S GRACE

THE GOD OF MERCY AND GRACE loves me, as He loves each and every one of His children. He chastises me when He needs to, and He forgives me (thankfully!) whenever I repent.

God's Glory Fills the HillsIn gratitude and joy, I should and must become more diligent in watching my speech.

The angels are watching, other men and women are watching, and my Lord and Savior is watching.

Here are just three reminders:

    • “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.”  — 2 Chronicles 16:9 (NKJV)
    • ”Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” — Hebrews 4:13 (NIV)
    • ”The eyes of the LORD are everywhere, observing the wicked and the good.”Proverbs 15:3 (CSB)

POSTSCRIPT

GOD, IN HIS MERCY AND GRACE, saved me from destruction through the life blood of His Son.

In turn, giving thanks to Him, I must be determined, I am determined, and with His help and guidance, I will be determined to watch my tongue.

It pains me to realize I will slip up, but as a child of God, I will be rebuked by the Holy Spirit, and through repentance, restored to fellowship with the eternal and loving God.

“LET THE WORDS OF MY MOUTH AND THE MEDITATION OF MY HEART BE ACCEPTABLE IN YOUR SIGHT, O LORD, MY ROCK AND MY REDEEMER.” — PSALM 19:14 (ESV)

PRAYER

THANK YOU, LORD JESUS, that You have called me from out of the darkness into the light,image-5  that You have plucked me up from the garbage of my sin-filled life and restored my soul. Now, O Lord, continue Your work in me until completion that I may be a blessing to others as You have blessed me. O Lord, help me guard my tongue … and my thoughts. Thank You, Lord Jesus! In Your holy and majestic name I lift this prayer … we lift this prayer … as one. AMEN

OBEYING THE LORD’S COMMANDS

The Lord has created us with a perfect plan to glorify Him and to enjoy fellowship with Him and each other. His rules for our lives are designed to help us, not to harm us or destroy our enjoyment. Instead, He promises His prescriptions will give us life and that in abundance. We disobey Him at our loss.

1 Kings 2:3 (CEV):Do what the Lord your God commands and follow his teachings.”

John 14:15a (TLB):If you love me, obey me.”

Luke 2:52 (CSB): “Jesus increased in wisdom and  stature, and in favor with God and with people.”

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LEARNING TO BE OBEDIENT

WHEN WE WERE children, our mother would tell us to “go to the bathroom” before we went anywhere in the car.

Of course, that would mean leaving our toys and other play things, so naturally we would respond, “I don’t have to go.”Boys_Playing_Blocks

After she told us another time or two, with each time our refusing to budge, our father would bellow, “Obey your mother!”

Suddenly, we had to use the bathroom and would race one another to get there first.

In many ways, that is how many Christians treat the Lord’s commands.

We know that He loves us and that He’ll forgive us, so we’re lax when it comes to obeying Him.

What too many Christians are prone to forget is that He also judges us and is not pleased when we disobey Him.

LEARNING GOD’S COMMANDS

WHAT ARE SOME of the commandments the Lord requires us to obey?

The first and primary commandment, as Jesus described it, is to love the Lord your God with your entire body, mind, and soul. The second commandment, He said, is to love our neighbor as ourself. (Matt. 22:37-40)

god-is-sovereignHe also commanded us to obey the Ten Commandments or Law of Moses. The first four commandments are to love God first, to worship only God, do not take His name in vain, and to honor the Sabbath Day, a requirement for ancient Israel that was replaced after Jesus’ resurrection with honoring the Lord’s Day.

The next six commandments regulated our interaction with our neighbors and were based entirely on mutual love and respect for others created in God’s image.

We readily recognize those “love” commandments as mandates from God, but there are others that we must acknowledge and obey:

        • You must be born again
        • Let people see your good works
        • Abide in Him
        • Forgive your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
        • Tell others about Him and baptize them in His name
        • Get rid of anything that causes you to sin
        • Store up your treasures in Heaven
        • Observe communion in remembrance of Him
        • Be humble, not proud
        • Do not lust after women (or men)
        • Be merciful.

OBEYING GOD’S COMMANDS

NOW, THE BIG QUESTION:

WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THAT LIST?

How many of them are you missing? Are you obeying each of them?

A few of them are one-time only, like being born again, but most of the list is ongoing, a way of life. If we are dedicated and consistent, we will live God-honoring lives that will make for a powerful testimony to the Lord’s saving grace.image-2

When we realize that we cannot fulfill the list under our own  power, we can lay claim to one of the more compelling commandments in the list, to “abide” in Jesus.

When we do that, He promises to “abide” in us and assures that, without Him, we can do nothing. (John 15:1-5)

POSTSCRIPT

GOD’S COMMANDMENTS are requirements, not requests or suggestions. He wants us to obey Him because His commandments are good for us.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

Those plans conform to God’s design for our lives. We not only are wise if we obey them, but we will be much happier and peaceful. (Proverbs 1:7; John 10:10)

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PRAYER

OUR GRACIOUS AND LOVING Heavenly Father, we  confess to You so often we have lone_crossfailed to obey Your design for our lives, substituting our own desires for Your commands. We have treated Your commands as worthy suggestions, but often ignore them for what they are: directives. Forgive us, Lord, and encourage us through the Holy Spirit to live our lives as a living testament to Your power and Your goodness. In Jesus’ redeeming name we pray. AMEN